“I just can’t forgive them!” “This love thing just hurts too much!” “When can I quit? Lord, surely there must be limits to grace because if there aren’t, it’s going to be the death of me!”
Ever thought that? Felt that? Said that to God?
Think of a time when you were hurt–hurt so deeply it felt like death–when forgiveness seemed impossible… (Picture it. Feel it)
At times like that, it’s awfully tempting to just give up, call it off, say it just didn’t work. Or to give up by growing a shell around your heart to keep it safe from the pain of love.
And you know, we often do quit, just when real love is about to happen… because it hurts.
Do you remember when the apostle Peter struggled with that? He came up to Jesus and said, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” That is, “When can I quit? Lord, surely there must be limits to grace because if there aren’t, it’s going to be the death of me!”
Then in Matthew 18:22 Jesus responded: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times. (or “seventy times seven” depending on how it’s translated).
Either way, it means you must forgive without limit!
Then Jesus told a story
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay (literally: “Not having of him to pay”), his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger, his master delivered him to the jailers (basinistes: “tormentors”), until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
It’s like un-forgiveness really is the unforgivable sin: “Deliver to the tormentors until he should pay all his debt!” Un-forgiveness is blasphemy against the Spirit—the Spirit of Grace.
But that’s confusing. Isn’t it? Jesus said, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Did He mean, “Be merciful OR your heavenly father WON’T be merciful?”
That’s confusing and we’ll come back to that, but the story does explain why we find it so hard to forgive: It tells us that sin is a debt. Forgiveness is canceling the debt by absorbing the loss, and that hurts!
I hear people say, “Well, that really hurt. I can’t forgive that; that was inexcusable!”
If it were excusable, it wouldn’t be forgivable because there would be nothing to forgive. We EXCUSE mistakes, but we must FORGIVE sins.
It’s precisely when something becomes inexcusable that it becomes forgivable.
When I forgive, I say, “You DO owe me one hundred denarii, but I forgive you.
I take your debt, and I turn it into a gift.”
So you see our problem: If we forgive, it takes “more than we have, and we die.” To forgive another is the death of what I call “me, myself, my life.” And yet, if I choose not to forgive what does my life become? It is now defined by another person’s sin against me. My life becomes a prison in which I’m TORMENTED by bitterness, resentment, and anger.
Maybe forgiveness is always the “death of me,” somehow in someway.
It’s a sacrifice.
Well Jesus’ story involved more than one slave and another slave, Jesus’ story included the King, and the King forgives 10,000 talents.
Scholars argue over the exact value of a talent, but we know that the entire tax revenue of Judea, Samaria, and Idonia (an area roughly the size of Israel) given to the Roman Empire was six hundred talents. One hundred denarii was one hundred coins, worth about one hundred days of labor. So it was no joke, but you could carry it in your pocket. 10,000 talents are 710,000 pounds of gold. To carry that, you would need an army. The listeners probably laughed out loud thinking, “How could a slave incur a debt of 10,000 talents?”
Well, that’s a great question!
Maybe the debt was an illusion in the mind of the slave. So at the end of the story, the slave is in a prison of his own making until he realizes there’s no debt. Yet, maybe not! In Job 41:11 God says, “Who has given to me (prevented me or betrayed me) that I should repay him?” “Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.”
So could the slave incur a debt like this? I don’t think so! So is the debt an illusion? Well, no because the King really forgives it. And Jesus, who is telling the story, says the slave really has it–this debt.
Gosh, the only way a slave could incur a debt worth 10,000 talents would be to take something from the King worth more than his entire kingdom, something like the life of his son.
That does sound vaguely familiar… Maybe the listeners thought the idea absurd, but Jesus probably wasn’t laughing. In only nine chapters, from when Jesus told this story, some of these folks would actually take Jesus’ life on a tree in a garden. In seven chapters, Jesus reveals the judgment saying, “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did to me.” Do you see what that means?
Every time I choose to hurt or not forgive my neighbor, I do the same to God. And in turn, I deserve to have the same done to me: “The measure I give is the measure I get.” But even though that’s the case, it’s hard to see how the sin of one slave could incur a 10,000 talent debt and result in an endless debtor’s prison or (as some interpret this passage) endless conscious torment by fire. Even if, like Judas, Pilate or the Roman centurion, I actually physically murdered the King’s son, it would seem the King’s punishment would be to murder me (maybe with some torment on the way, as interest).
So how does that idea of an endless debtor’s prison make any sense? Well, it doesn’t really make sense. In fact, Isaiah and Job say just the opposite: “How arrogant of you to think you, a created being, could merit anything (good or bad) from God: “What is man that thou art mindful of him?” “Why do you care one way or another?” “If I sin, what do I do to you O Lord?” asked Job (Job 7:17-20).
So, a finite sin wouldn’t deserve infinite retaliation, and if it did, wouldn’t that mean that God is infinitely unsatisfied and endlessly angry, and infinitely not at peace?
So the slave has a 10,000 talent debt, but it doesn’t make sense that he incurred that 10,000 talent debt (he didn’t make the debt). It doesn’t make sense in this story Jesus tells or the story Jesus is about to live. Even when Jesus’ life was taken, Jesus said, “No one takes it from me. I freely lay it down.” And not only that, all of Scripture makes it abundantly clear: Not only does Jesus give it, The Father gives Jesus, and He arranged everything to do so, on a tree in a garden. He gives Jesus so we can see that we take Jesus.
And think about this story that Jesus told: The story starts with debt. From the foundation of the story, there is debt and no indication that the King blames the slave for the debt. This King isn’t even angry about this 10,000 talent debt. He only gets angry when the slave refuses to forgive the one hundred denarii debt of a brother.
And check this out: This slave thinks he can repay a 10,000 talent debt, for he says, “Have patience, and I will repay it all.” BUT He’s a slave. What will he repay it with? Everything He thinks He owns already belongs to the Master. He has nothing to earn 10,000 talents with. If you know you are a slave of the master, no one can actually sin against you. They can only sin against your master.
So the slave thinks, he can pay off the debt, but the King knows that he cannot pay off the debt. The King thinks the slave is the debt. The slave thinks he can pay what is owed.
To the one who thinks he can pay, to the one who doesn’t forgive, the Lord says, “Deliver him to the tormentors.” You see? I think the unforgiving slave is already in a prison that is his own psyche–his pride. If you refuse to forgive, expect to be tormented by demons. And Jesus Himself may even feel like torment. When you reject Grace, Grace will burn. “Deliver him to the tormentors until…until…until? he pays his debt.” And what is his debt? It’s 10,000 talents! It’s his life! It’s THE Life trapped within himself. We all must lose our life to find it.
The King thinks the slave is what is owed.
Listen closely: “And not having of him to pay, the Lord ordered him to be sold with his wife and children, and all he had (his life) and payment to be made (payment to be “accomplished)” (Matthew 18:25).
The slave doesn’t have 10,000 talents. That king reckons that this slave is worth 10,000 talents. What if this slave is the son of the King? Or, if that doesn’t work, what if the Son of the King is in the slave? Or what if this son of the king doesn’t truly know he’s a son of the King– he doesn’t know that he contains the lifeblood of the King? So, when he gives his brother 10,000 denarii he demands it back, not knowing they’re both sons of the King.
Jesus seems to reckon that we are all children of one Father (He said to pray, “Our Father”) who share one Life, and He is “the Life.” Jesus said, “I am the Life.”
On the sixth day of creation, which is this day (for we are still being created), He breathed His life into the clay and man became a living being. You contain the Life. And God gladly gave you that Life–His Life. And so you are worth far more than 10,000 talents. But as soon as you think you create that life, save that life, or redeem that life, as soon as you think it’s your “own life” you take Jesus’ Life.
But God the Father gave The Life at the very start of the story: “The lamb…was slain from the foundation of the world.” See what that means? That means that the cross is the revelation of a transaction that somehow upholds all space and time, and has always given you Life. But at the cross you come to know The Life as you watch God forgive you 10,000 talents, as Jesus–the Word of God sacrifices His soul and delivers up The Spirit–the very Spirit with which you are BEING created.
Maybe the slave didn’t incur the debt (or earn the debt) because he didn’t create himself. The King created Him with His Word. Understand: You have always been created by Grace. But at the cross, God reveals Grace. He creates faith in Grace, in you. God is Grace. Once you trust Grace, you’re free to Love, and to Love is to enter life–eternal life. It’s Heaven! In other words: You are forgiven the 10,000 talents–the Kingdom.
So why wouldn’t you forgive your neighbor what they might owe you?
Well, clearly, if you don’t forgive your neighbor it’s because you don’t really believe that you are forgiven or that your life is valued at 10,000 talents. I mean, if I really believe I am worth 10,000 talents, I am able to forgive those who hurt me. I might be concerned for the person hurting me, but I’ll forgive them that very moment. People might take “my life,” but I’ll gladly give my life. I’ll know that even as I give “my life,” or HIS Life, there is always more life, like a river of life!!
Do you get the picture? It’s like we are literally the “Body of Christ, and individually members thereof.” We are vessels, not to be closed but open (blood vessels). The Spirit is Life, and “the Life–the Breath is in the blood.” If you hold on to your life, the life dies, but if you “lose your life, you find it.”
Jesus came to help us die. When He died, we all died in Him, and when we rise, we all rise with Him. We are His Body.
When Jesus road up the hill to sacrifice His life, in the garden on the tree,
He returned the fruit to the tree
He returned the Life to God
He returned the blood to the heart–the temple.
He lifted His head and delivered up the Spirit¬–the Spirit God breathed into Adam.
He died so all could live.
He expired so all could inspire…and expire…and inspire…and expire…and inspire…
The Father forgave the Life. It’s an eternal river of Life, and it flows through your veins when you forgive and are forgiven.
When we forgive, we give God the Glory, and He bleeds His Life into us (“The life is in the blood”) He bleeds that Glory back into us, and we bleed His Life into each other. We are two people “gathered in his name, and He is in our midst.” We share one life, like three persons and one life—one body.
One unified body freely forgiving, receiving and giving to each other in love. Now that sounds like Heaven!
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen. It is primarily a compilation of excerpts from Peter Hiett’s latest sermon: Stuck on Jackass Hill Blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is an amazing sermon and this devotional just touches the surface of all that was said. I hope you check it out!!